Cuba is the world’s greatest living car museum. In the 1950’s, Cuba imported more Cadillacs, DeSotos, and Buicks than any other nation. Many of those have been restored, and today you can still see them, along with Hudsons, Oldsmobiles, Edsels, Chevy Impalas, and many others. After the Revolution, Cuban car owners were generally allowed to keep them (along with their homes—they could both be passed along via inheritance). However, once a vehicle was sold, it became just about impossible for a Cuban to buy another. This was the main reason why Cubans did whatever it would take to keep their cars running, even if it meant completely replacing the engine. Without the correct tools and proper replacement parts, Cubans became experts at innovation.
While visiting Havana and other Cuban cities, you should feel free to admire these vehicles and talk with their owners. They will often pop the hood to show you how the engines of their DeSotos and Edsels and other cars have long-ago been replaced with engines and parts cannibalized from other American cars, or even with Russian diesel engines.
You can see these old cars all over Cuba, but they are concentrated in Havana. In addition to organized car shows (such as every Saturday night at Hotel Nacionál), there are 5-6 or more areas in the capital city where there usually are concentrations of vintage vehicles. The streets which surround Central Park on the western boundary of Old Havana are always a great place to view these reminders of life in the mid-1900’s in the USA.
For those interested in these cars and in Cuba, there will be a new series premiering on the Discovery Channel next Monday, July 13 at 7pm Pacific time, repeated at 9pm Pacific. “Cuba Chrome” will be the first television series shot entirely in Cuba. It had been planned even before Obama’s December announcement. Like so many other recent and future cultural, athletic, and touristic events, it is yet one more example of this tidal wave of normalization-related activities that are rapidly bringing the people of our countries closer.
For more information on “Cuba Chrome,” please visit: